It was clear the day Nvidia announced its new Pascal-powered GeForce GTX 1080 graphics card that there was a new champion for desktop gaming. The GTX 1080, according to Nvidia's tests and our own, provides a significant bump in graphics power compared to the GTX 980, GTX 980 Ti and GTX Titan X.
But the more pressing question for many PC gamers — especially those unwilling to spend $600 to $700 on a new graphics card — was how exactly the 1070 would compare to the existing slate of cards.
While Nvidia promised Titan X-level performance, the company didn't release specifications for the card, which will cost $379 to $449 when it hits on June 10. The good news is that after spending a week with the 1070, we can say that it is a surprisingly robust card that easily outperforms all but the 980 Ti, Titan X and 1080.
As with the 1080, one of the ways the 1070 manages this with lower memory bandwidth than some of the older cards is by using a new memory compression engine that includes new modes for color compression. This ultimately translates to about 20 percent more effective bandwidth use, according to Nvidia.
The end result means that, for instance, the 1070 averages 75 frames per second at 1920x1080 running Hitman on DirectX 12 on our rig, compared to 50 fps on the 980 Ti and 85 fps on the 1080.
If you have the money, it's an easy call to upgrade from the 970 or even the 980 to the 1070, but things get a bit trickier if you own a 980 Ti or happen to have a Titan X. Our own tests show that the 1070's performance sometimes matches those older cards, but is sometimes beaten by them as well.
1070 Founders Edition
Nvidia's Founders Edition of the 1070 looks identical to the 1080 but doesn't include a vapor chamber cooling system. Instead it makes use of a radial fan and heatsink system. The fan exhausts the heat outside the chassis via an aluminum heatsink, three copper heat pipes and a metal baseplate, making for lower system temperatures. And the 1070 does all of this while drawing just 150 watts.
The Founders Edition is just as beautiful on the outside as it is in its Pascal-powered guts. Designed in-house by Nvidia, it has a machine-finished, heat-treated die-cast aluminum body and low-profile backplate. A section of the backplate can be removed to increase airflow between multiple 1070 cards when using an SLI configuration. The card has three DisplayPort connections, one HDMI 2.0b port and a dual-link DVI port. It can drive up to four displays simultaneously.
And of course, the same neat software tech and support coming to the 1080 is also coming to the 1070. The card offers the ability to render more accurately across multiple displays to provide distortion-free images on flat, surround, curved and spherical screens. It also boasts double the performance for virtual reality headsets by rendering the geometry for both eyes in an image on a single pass.
Much of these features are designed in reaction to advances or coming advances in display technology.
One of the more interesting new developments coming with the arrival of the 1070 is Nvidia's reworked method for capturing in-game images. Ansel is designed to be your SLR camera inside the games you play.
The results are in, amigo
The software suite will allow you to pause a game, detach the camera to move it around and add filters to capture EXR, super high-resolution or even 360-degree images. Those images can then be viewed in VR.
The tech does require game developers to add code into their creations, but Nvidia says the work will be minimal. For instance, according to the company, The Witness required an extra 40 or so lines of code, while The Witcher 3 required about 150 lines of code.
Once integrated, Ansel will pause the game, unhook the camera and provide a number of shooting options to the player. Super resolution pictures using this technology can ignore the game's native resolution support to capture an image limited only by hard drive space, input/output speeds and the game's maximum level of detail. The super resolution can be combined with super sampling to create crisp, sharp edges.
Using the graphic card's CUDA-based stitching to handle tone-mapping issues, these super high-res screenshots are actually a series of tiled images joined together. The current limitation for this technique can provide a 4.5 gigapixel image with 3,600 stitched tiles.
Ansel also supports capturing Raw and EXR images that contain high dynamic range for easier manipulation inside programs like Photoshop. Finally, Ansel will include nearly two dozen effects like lens flare, lens dirt, tone mapping, distortion effects and convolution filters.
A game developer can choose to limit what sorts of effects and abilities are supported inside a game. Currently, the only games that will provide Ansel support at launch are The Division, The Witness, LawBreakers, The Witcher 3, Paragon, Fortnite, Obduction, No Man's Sky and Unreal Tournament.
Ansel still isn't available for hands-on testing, but we hope to get it loaded up sometime prior to its official June release and will be sure to write it up once we do.
The good news is that Ansel supports more than just this new line of Pascal-powered graphics cards. It looks like most cards going back to the 600 series will be supported. You can find the full list here.
Of course, the 1070 will support both overclocking and SLI configurations.
Overclocking and SLI
As has been the case for a while, Nvidia doesn't recommend putting more than two cards in a system, but the company still supports it through an app that can be downloaded on the Nvidia website. And Pascal has a dual-link SLI mode that has both SLI interfaces being used in tandem either to feed one high-resolution screen or multiple displays.
When using an SLI setup for virtual reality headsets, each eye gets its own GPU, rendering them at the same time and delivering faster, better performance.
Overclocking on the 1070 will be powered by Nvidia's latest take on GPU Boost.
GPU Boost 3.0 adds the ability to set frequency offsets for individual voltage points, making it much more efficient at boosting power. The new GPU Boost is also designed to accommodate GPU overclocking scanners.
Nvidia repeatedly warns reviewers that one of the issues they may run into while testing out the graphics card is a CPU bottleneck. Essentially, it's the computer's CPU, not the graphics card, that may be limiting the graphical fidelity of your games. That was certainly the case with my computer, which has an Intel Core i7-2600K CPU running at 3.4 GHz, in a few of my tests.
While my time spent playing Doom with fully maxed settings and v-sync turned off delivered an average of about 130 fps on 1920x1080 resolution with the GTX 1080, and an average of 110 fps with the same settings on a 1070, I'm pretty sure that was because of my CPU, not the GPU.
But I'm just as certain that I probably wouldn't have noticed the difference.
I was blown away by the Founders Edition GTX 1080. But in many ways, the more affordable GTX 1070 is even more impressive. Like its more powerful sibling, this is a slick piece of tech — a quiet beast of a graphics card that delivers more for less in almost every way possible.
Where the 1080's higher price tag might have left some reason for holdouts to wait, it's hard to summon up viable excuses to not grab a 1070 if you're running on an outdated graphics card.
This is a significant leap in technology worth the price of admission.
Make sure to check out our GeForce GTX 1080 write-up as well.
Correction: Updated to note that the 1070 doesn't include a vapor chamber for cooling.